Nowadays, if you want to know as little as possible about a movie or show before seeing it, you have to actively go out of your way to avoid trailers, gossip sites, and the people who make the movies and shows carelessly spoiling their own creations. The script for Django Unchained, for instance, got leaked over a year before the movie came out (presumably Tarantino wanted us to count the N-words ourselves).
However, there was a time, not too long ago, when filmmakers and entertainers went to extreme lengths to preserve the secrets we'd all find out sooner or later anyway -- even if it meant using insane methods like ...
5George Lucas Didn't Tell Anyone Darth Vader Was Luke's Father (Not Even the Actors)
Thanks to all the Star Wars parodies, references, and freaking prequels, kids today probably learn that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father before they find out who the president is. However, when The Empire Strikes Back came out in 1980 and Vader said the classic, often misremembered words, "I am your father," audiences were left in complete shock. Keep in mind that fans had been told in the first movie that Luke's dad was dead, by a man with a British accent, no less, so they had little reason to doubt that it wasn't true.
British is like the .gov of accents.
Still, dozens of people are present during the shooting of any scene in a movie, so how the hell did George Lucas convince them to keep this a secret until the movie came out?
How They Kept It Quiet:
Lucas didn't need to convince anyone, because the actor playing Darth Vader in that scene didn't say "I am your father" on the set -- he said "Obi-Wan killed your father."
Seriously, look at his lips.
As you may know, the guy in Vader's suit and the guy who did the voice are two different people (James Earl Jones would dub over David Prowse's lines later), so it was extremely easy for Lucas to just write the fake line into the script and shoot the scene like that. In fact, Lucas was so distrustful of his own crew that he told the truth to absolutely no one. And by no one, of course, we mean a few select people who had to know in order to shoot the scene in question, but seriously, like no one else.
For a long time, the only person Lucas had told was the movie's director, Irvin Kershner, but they only told Mark Hamill, the actor playing Luke Sykwalker, literally moments before he had to shoot his reaction. Even then, Kershner made sure to point out to Hamill that if the ending got leaked, they would know it was him.
"You know when your character loses a hand in the movie? That's just a preview, kid."
Carrie Fisher didn't know, Harrison Ford didn't know, R2-D2 didn't know -- as we mentioned, even Darth Vader didn't know. Or at least he'd forgotten he knew: Two years before The Empire Strikes Back came out, David Prowse jokingly predicted that this very twist might take place while talking to a crowd of over 1,000 Star Wars fans at a public appearance in Berkeley, California.
Terry O'Neill / Getty
"Now there's an idea!"
4The "Who Shot J.R.?" Episode of Dallas Was Locked in a Vault
It was, quite simply, the most famous cliffhanger in the history of television. And while those pompous so-called history books may try to tell you that the biggest question of the summer of 1980 was whether Reagan would defeat Carter or when the Iran hostage crisis would finally be resolved, we all know that the mystery everyone really wanted to figure out back then can be summed up in three little words: "Who shot J.R.?"
And the implied follow-up, "Why didn't everyone?"
Specifically, they wanted to find out which of J.R. Ewing's countless sworn enemies finally mustered up the courage to unload a couple of rounds in his ass during the third season finale of prime time soap opera Dallas. It would be eight full months before the answer was finally revealed, and the hype was absolutely through the roof -- the only way the impatient public managed to keep its sanity during that time was by spending shitloads of money on T-shirts, posters, magazines, and other novelty items with J.R.'s name on them.
Time declared the bullet that did it their man of the year.
How They Kept It Quiet:
Apparently the producers themselves bought into the frenzy, because they put more effort into hiding the identity of J.R.'s would-be killer than the U.S. government put into covering up the [sentence redacted by the CIA].
First the show filmed multiple endings with almost every single character firing the fateful shots, ensuring that even they wouldn't know which of them was the real shooter (they even jokingly had a shot of J.R. firing the gun). The correct version was only added to the final cut of the episode two days before its airing. In between, the episode sat locked in a vault in New York. When the episode finally aired, 360 million people finally learned that the culprit was J.R.'s former mistress.
For some reason, we expected ALF.
But before they could even get to that point, the producers had to sort out other troubles: There was an eight-week production delay caused by a Screen Actor's Guild strike, meaning that for the first several months, the writers didn't even have an answer to the mystery. To complicate matters even further, Larry Hagman, the actor behind J.R., staged a 10-day holdout, refusing to perform again until he got a raise. Rather than telling him, "You just filmed a scene where someone shot you, moron," and killing the character, they finally gave him his raise, plus a juicy percentage of royalties from all those J.R. T-shirts.
"I sure hope all this money doesn't hinder my ability to pretend I'm a filthy rich, out-of-touch dickwad for a living."